Convert your Freshwater Lures and Tactics to Saltwater Purposes

tom kayak

By Tom Cannon


Growing up in the Midwest, I spent my lifetime casting to freshwater species. It wasn’t until my twenties that I was fortunate to make an occasional foray to chase some saltwater fish. Like many anglers I am continually trying to learn more about the game; and the more I learn the more I realize fish share common characteristics.

Take predator fish like Largemouth Bass, Pike or Stripers (freshwater). No matter what water the fish lives in, they survive by preying on lesser baitfish. Often anglers realize the fish may not be feeding but can be coerced into biting via a reaction strike.  Predators instinctively will strike when an opportunity at an injured prey presents itself. Pick the proper lure for the right scenario and anglers can increase their catch ratio dramatically. Of course not all situations are ripe for the “reaction strike”.

The first place I look for predator fish is at some sort of ambush point. In lakes and streams near my home; the key spots are creek channel swings, brushpiles, docks and flooded timber. Surprisingly these terrain features are present no matter where an angler chooses to fish- if one looks closely.flats fisherman

For instance, creek channels are present nearly everywhere. Saltwater flats typically have some sort of ditch nearby where deep water can be found. Of course in between nearly every Key, is an actual channel which can easily found by looking for an obvious bridge. In Midwest lakes, we often sink old Christmas trees or treetops to form our own brushpiles. Saltwater anglers can relate, simply by looking for old wrecked boats, crab or lobster pots or washed up debris which typically will be home to numerous species of fish much like a reef.

Flipping to timber is one method I have used to cash several checks in Bass tournaments. Saltwater anglers often overlook their own flooded “timber” in the form of mangroves. Although I have seen an occasional boat or two casting to mangroves, I have never seen anyone “flipping” baits into the trees. What’s more fishing docks is a technique pretty much created at my home impoundment, Lake of the Ozarks. Docks are found nearly everywhere there is water. Many fishermen overlook these prime fishing spots.big dock

The key to dock fishing in saltwater, is water depth. No every dock will present the proper situation but the great thing about saltwater is the tide. Water depth will increase or decrease twice a day. Experience will show when the water depth is prime to catch fish off a series of docks.  Additionally not all docks are equal. The supports can be made of wood, metal or concrete and only by fishing several in the area can the fisherman determine which docks will produce.

The same scenario applies to “flooded timber”. No matter whether it is fresh or saltwater, depth can be critical. Tree size and placement can also be important to predators. I nearly always check the isolated tree or bush or the older, bigger wood.  Usually there is a reason why one tree is bigger and bigger means older with a large root wad to house bait and predators alike.

Furthermore, I often see anglers get hung up on the same old lures that have proven reliable in their circles. I am always on the lookout for transitional bait. I have converted several proven Bass lures into productive saltwater baits. For instance topwater lures. One of my most effective top water baits anywhere is the Ultimate Topwater Shad, a soft body baitfish produced by Culprit. It works well on schooling freshwater Stripers, Largemouth Bass in mossy backwater sloughs and is equally at home on the flats on the Florida Keys. Barracudas and shallow water sharks are suckers for a Topwater Shad walked across a grassy flat. A shallow water crank bait like a Bass Pro “egg” can also be deadly when burned just over the top of grass beds.mangrove

As I stated earlier, mangroves are often overlooked fishing targets. I will venture into the heart of the mangroves and visually search for bedded fish. Once I locate a stretch of trees that house fish. I back out a few yards and rig up one of my trusty flipping sticks. This technique is master by nearly every Bass angler but I have yet to witness anyone in the backcountry trying it. My rig consists of a seven and half foot rod spooled with the heaviest fluorocarbon line I can get by with. Typically 15 pound test, with a painted leadhead jig tied to it. Salty water makes me switch between a Culprit Incredi-Claw (with the curly legs pulled off) or a Riptide Realistic Shrimp rigged onto the jighead. Flipping or pitching into the brush has allowed me to fill several stringers with Snappers and Groupers as well as other species. These baits with this technique also work great around and under docks. Be sure to present the lures into shady areas.

When times get tough in your shallow water haunts whether it is freshwater or saltwater, don’t be afraid to take a few tricks from anglers from other regions. Switch baits to something the local fish haven’t seen and often it will pay dividends!

The same scenario applies to “flooded timber”. No matter whether it is fresh or saltwater, depth can be critical. Tree size and placement can also be important to predators. I nearly always check the isolated tree or bush or the older, bigger wood.  Usually there is a reason why one tree is bigger and bigger means older with a large root wad to house bait and predators alike.

Furthermore, I often see anglers get hung up on the same old lures that have proven reliable in their circles. I am always on the lookout for transitional bait. I have converted several proven Bass lures into productive saltwater baits. For instance topwater lures. One of my most effective top water baits anywhere is the Ultimate Topwater Shad, a soft body baitfish produced by Culprit. It works well on schooling freshwater Stripers, Largemouth Bass in mossy backwater sloughs and is equally at home on the flats on the Florida Keys. Barracudas and shallow water sharks are suckers for a Topwater Shad walked across a grassy flat. A shallow water crank bait like a Bass Pro “egg” can also be deadly when burned just over the top of grass beds.

Culprit Realistic Shrimp

Culprit Realistic Shrimp


Culprit Incredi-Claw

As I stated earlier, mangroves are often overlooked fishing targets. I will venture into the heart of the mangroves and visually search for bedded fish. Once I locate a stretch of trees that house fish. I back out a few yards and rig up one of my trusty flipping sticks. This technique is master by nearly every Bass angler but I have yet to witness anyone in the backcountry trying it. My rig consists of a seven and half foot rod spooled with the heaviest fluorocarbon line I can get by with. Typically 15 pound test, with a painted leadhead jig tied to it. Salty water makes me switch between a Culprit Incredi-Claw (with the curly legs pulled off) or a Riptide Realistic Shrimp rigged onto the jighead. Flipping or pitching into the brush has allowed me to fill several stringers with Snappers and Groupers as well as other species. These baits with this technique also work great around and under docks. Be sure to present the lures into shady areas.

When times get tough in your shallow water haunts whether it is freshwater or saltwater, don’t be afraid to take a few tricks from anglers from other regions. Switch baits to something the local fish haven’t seen and often it will pay dividends!dock fishing

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Photo Season

mallard flight

Recently I have taken up a second waterfowl season… Photo season! Once February 15th brings the close of dark goose season in Kansas, I typically had pack my gear and sulked around until the following fall. Last winter I began to take advantage of some optimum bird numbers and snap a few photos. Thus, I fell into a new passion, waterfowl photography. Although I have had no training, and merely have some older, basic gear; I am gaining some valuable experience.

Since I consider myself a student of “the game”, I try to continue my wildlife education when any opportunity arises. I spend countless hours in the field, marsh, or truck, glassing waterfowl with my trusty Alpen binoculars. Once I locate a concentration and gain permission, I scout the spot for best possible “shooting locations”. Blinds are the best way to prevent flaring birds or wildlife, thus I leave a pop up blind at a prime photography spot. The little pop up blind conceals my tripod, camera and body plus it allows me to move about and not spook nearby birds. Good cover allows the photographer to be totally invisible, thus inviting the birds right into his lap for a close shot.

Additionally, during my bonus season, I have the ability to study ducks and geese in an un-molested habitat. Thus I can gain valuable tricks to utilize in the coming season(s).  It was here in my photo blind that I heard what true spit notes from a goose sound like, as well as the various range of volume and tones of a large group of Mallards. Furthermore, I have witnessed waterfowl that are rarely seen in my region during the hunting season. For instance, it’s uncommon to spy a Whitefront goose during the hunting season, but recently my little refuge is covered with hundreds of  “specks” ! Canvasbacks and Pintails are also not typically seen here during the waterfowl season, but now are here aplenty. It’s a rare treat to view them and absorb the sights and sounds of the typical as well as the unorthodox birds. Anything I can learn from ANY encounter with wildlife makes me a more intelligent and experienced hunter. What follow are some of my favorite “shots”.

5 bandsFive banded geese

double band honkera double banded Honker

specks & honkers fliersdifferent size Canada’s as well as Specks

feet up speck3a speck splashing around on his back (feet up!)

neck collar speck!the first neck collar speck I have ever seen

collar view3my second ever neck collar speck (the very next day!)

landing mallarda hovering Mallard in a snow storm


bufflehead, geese & pintailsPintails, Bufflehead, Mallard and sleeping honker

canvasback drakes 3The king of ducks – a pair of Canvasback drakes

Story and photos by Tom Cannon

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Why People Should Hunt


People should hunt because it’s good for the population, gives people food, and also it helps your survival skills. Hunting helps keep the animal population in the perfect number rates. Hunting helps people put food on their table for their family. About ¾ of the meal my family and I eat are the food that my father and I hunt. Hunting helps with your survival skills because you could be stranded for days and even months. So that’s why i think that people should hunt.

People should hunt because it helps the population. Hunting helps keep the animal population to the perfect number rate on the charts. Hunting helps the animal population because there is a set number of deer that a person can shoot each year so that it is fair and so that the deer don’t become extinct. Hunting helps the population because a lot of people depend on shelters for food and it’s hard to get enough food  these days.

Hunting helps the population because you can donate meat to local shelters if you have no use for it, and they will be very thankful. Hunting helps the population because a lot of people probably went to bed hungry last night and might die. Millions of people die every year from malnutrition, lack of protein, and just plain starvation so together we can fix that problem by helping other families.

People should hunt because it helps people put food on their tables. Most animals hunted are usually eaten. About ¾ of the dinners my family eats are from my father and I’s deer, geese, and other animals. People can also eat breakfast and lunch, not just dinner of hunted animals. We also eat breakfast sausage (cracker sausage) made of deer. Even if you don’t hunt most of the food you eat was hunted. You might not know this but duck tastes like steak, deer sausage tastes  like sausage and frog legs taste like chicken.

Hunting helps with survival skills. If you were to ever be in a plane crash, most people wouldn’t know what to do; but hunting helps influence your survival skills. Hunting also helps your survival skills by helping you with camping and making fires and getting food. Being a hunter is a lot of work but I must say but it’s well worth it.  I am above the other scouts in my troop because of hunting. It helps me with my sense of direction, sense of smell , and sense for animals health and which animals to leave alone.

Some people want to ban hunting but I don’t think so for these reasons. Hunting may be a very old sport but people don’t hunt just for fun, they also hunt for necessity. We humans also would not be able to survive just on plants. Also most children hate vegetables and will  not be able to not eat just veggies. People aren’t the only one who hunt also, cats, dogs, snakes, and almost every animal hunts. Take this quote for example “One does not hunt in order to kill; on the contrary, one kills to have hunted.” -Jose Ortega Y Gasset. Also if you have ever hit a deer with your car, or had them damage your trees ; you realize how important animal population control is.

The reasons for hunting are obvious. It puts food on your table, helps with the population, and helps with your survival skills. So if you are ever interested in hunting these are the reasons why you should hunt.  – Kylee Cannon

(This was a school project done solely and independently by Kylee Cannon, 6th grader.)

kylee & vito goose field

Works Cited


“CSA – Why We Need Hunting.” CSA – Why We Need Hunting. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <>.

“Why Hunt.” Why Hunt. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <>.

“25 Reasons Why Hunting Is Conservation.” 25 Reasons Why Hunting Is Conservation. Web. 5 Feb. 2015. <>.

(This was a school project done solely and independently by Kylee Cannon, 6th grader.)

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Miscellaneous thoughts, reflections and ramblings on an expired season


The highlight on the 2013 -2014 hunting season was invariably deer season. I scored my archery buck on my first morning in a treestand. Normally it takes many an hour to accomplish the same goal. Yet my highlight of any deer season to date has to be November 22nd, when my daughter Kylee, scored her first buck. By no means was it her first deer, but the first that carried antlers. I don’t know who was happier, the hunter or the guide!T& V

Once deer season ended for us, I whistled and Vito joined me in whatever blind I happened to be in that day. Whether we were chasing ducks or geese, the two of us were side by side. We had some thrilling days in the corn fields where we were overwhelmed with ducks! The same cannot be said about goose hunting!duck closeup

Rare was the day of a limit of honkers.tom&jack

More typical was the days spent wondering why? Amid thousands of geese, a hunter such as myself ponders what he could have done different in hopes of a more successful trip next time.fiocchi green

Of course no matter how bad the situation might be; I tried to find some positives. Constantly witnessing ducks up close and very personal, helps pass the time. A rare sighting of swans passing though the decoy spread sure brightens one’s mood.swans

Of course there are always the sights and sounds witnessed only in the blind !morning at duck pond

What’s more, when your partner has a good day.. it’s tough not to smile no matter what the bird count is!

vito on hillAlso when things get tough as they often do; one has to adopt and overcome. Heck I went so far as to set up in a thick briar patch. Although it was uncomfortable for Vito and I at first, we didn’t mind it much when we shot a limit of honkers!tom & vThanks to all who hunted with us this season. Hopefully we will all enjoy many more glorious sunrises and sunsets.

story and photos by Tom Cannon


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The Next Generation’s Hunter


by Tom Cannon

I grew up with a serious passion for hunting and fishing. My dad only hunted upland birds, but that was enough to light the wick and get me started. Later in life when I had my own vehicle, I began to broaden my horizons. By trial and error I learned to hunt big game and waterfowl. Several decades, and hundreds of mistakes later; I have progressed to the next stage… That of coach and instructor.

The last few years have been spent introducing my daughter Kylee, to the great outdoors. Sure she grew up exposed to the tools, animals, and gear; I never really knew if she would have a desire to spent much time afield. We progressed down the path with baby steps. First at six or seven years old, she began to shoot a miniature .22 rifle. That lead to a slightly larger framed .22 rifle and then a toy bow and arrow. When she reached the age of nine, she was getting more mature and mentioned she would like to try deer hunting.

Thus we purchased a youth model .243 rifle and set it up for her. I introduced her to it with reduced power, hand loads. Once she got comfortable with the very light loads, I progressively worked her way up to full power Fiocchi hunting ammo.

kylee shooting

Our first year, age nine was fun but a bit challenging. It was difficult for her to sit still and then be comfortable. Kylee did manage to fill her first deer tag with a nice doe which she shot all on her own.

Her sophomore year had its share of hurdles. Lack of deer movement at times, lead to restlessness and lack of desire to go out. A bit of encouragement and sweet talking was needed to keep the girl on track. Once more she hit her mark and brought home another doe.

Last year, she inquired if she could shoot a buck, since I had relegated her to does only previously. Since she was getting more of a desire to hunt, I purchased her two tags; one of which was a youth buck tag. We labored through some cold weather, and Kylee gained some insight into deer behaviors. Her rifle range extended to seventy yards, where she could effectively shoot on her own (although I was always next to her supervising). Although we saw a few bucks, none of them was reckless enough to set foot inside her restricted shooting range. Once more she tagged another nice doe and was really starting to mature and enjoy herself in the hunting blind.

Fall began to approach this year and we brought out the .22 rimfire rifle for more extensive practices. Since she was getting proficient with the .22, I began to extend her rifle range. Now she was going to be allowed to shoot to one hundred yards or just beyond. We once more discussed and viewed the vital sections of a deer ‘s body. Repeatedly she inquired about the possibility of shooting a buck. With a buck and a doe tag in her possession, we happily left the license counter. Her conversation on the way to the car was all about her desire for a big buck this year.

Youth weekend brought consistent deer movement, yet none of it within Kylee’s shooting range. Having discussed the fact that she would take the first good opportunity at a mature deer, either buck or doe, we were ready. Late on the last evening, movement had been slow. So much that she wanted to leave early much to my dismay. Since her mind was made up, I packed up the gear while she unloaded her rifle. As any hunter knows- that is the sound animals cherish. Seconds later a trio of does stroll by, well within easy shooting range. Kylee learned a valuable lesson that evening about staying put until shooting time is over!

kylee 2014 doe

Since she prefers to sleep late, morning hunts are rarely an option! Thus afternoons are when we have to get after it. Since youth weekend was complete, we now had two weekends to fill her tags. Luckily the first weekend, she observed a mature doe at eighty yards. One shot with her trusty rifle and it was down! A quick check of my watch, revealed we still had an hour left to hunt. I asked her if she wanted to stay in  hopes that a buck might walk out? When she relied, “no Dad, I don’t want my deer season to end yet…” ; I knew I had the making of a real hunter in my mist.

The following weekend, warmer weather and high winds resulted in tough hunting. Still, my lessons about persistence were beginning to take hold. Upon reaching the box blind and stowing our gear, she loaded her rifle but after a few minutes got restless. Her electronic game began to draw all of her attention, until I nudged her. I pointed to a doe that was being followed by a nice buck. Quietly the game was placed in a bag while her rifle began to ease up to the shooting rail. Due to the hard right angle, Kylee was going to have to sit on my lap to make the shot.

At the crack, he staggered… I had enlightened her previously that bucks can be tougher to drop than does, and had tutored her to always fire a second shot if the animal doesn’t go right down. Quickly she worked the bolt and sent another Fiocchi round downrange. This time the beast was down for good! As we glassed him with our binoculars to ensure there was no movement, she began to assess the situation. I don’t recall the exact words she spoke but the excitement she had was nothing to the invigoration I felt! I have been fortunate to take some trophy class animals in my lifetime yet Kylee’s achievement on that night was the highlight of my hunting career!

It seemed she was walking on air, as we approached the downed buck. She had been taught to focus on the vitals and shot placement, and had never realized the size of this buck until we laid hands on him. A moment of overwhelming excitement over took her for a second or two. Then we thanked God for our successful hunt and put her tag on her first buck. Fortunately we had a few minutes of daylight left in which to snap a few photos that would last a lifetime.

Then as we walked hand in hand back to the truck, she asked me about Elk hunting and I knew I had just encountered the next generation’s hunter!



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GREAT GEAR: Drake Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket

by Tom Cannon

drake non-typical-silencer-soft-shell-jacket-dAxDkxTW

This is a product review of the new Drake Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket, (Drake item # DW 5105). Yes the name is a mouthful, and it is the first item we have tested from Drake’s new big game clothing line, known as Non Typical gear.

I was in need of a new bow hunting jacket so this item arrived at the perfect time. My first opinion of it when I opened the box was, “wow this is pretty light weight – I hope its warm!” Also I was impressed by the subtleness of the material and how quiet it was. Immediately I tossed it in the washer with some Scent-A-Way detergent in order to use it on the next day’s hunt.

Halloween dawned and this would be the first opportunity I had to bow hunt this year. Likewise, I got a chance to test out the Non Typical jacket in a true field setting. I was fortunate to arrow a nice older buck early in the morning. While I was quite pleased with the fact I filled my buck tag, I hadn’t really run the Drake Non Typical jacket through its paces.

drake non typical bowhunter

I was impressed with the movement of the jacket and how the sleeves did not restrict any movement when drawing a bow. My experience as a bow hunter has shown this is the toughest thing to get right in a coat. Drawing your bow takes a lot of motion and movement of the body and any jacket design flaws will immediately show as the hunter gets uncomfortable, pinched or short sleeved while doing so. In fact the jacket was very comfortable and did not bind one bit through any range of motion I tried. I was able to draw and stay at full draw just as I would in short sleeves. What’s more is that the sleeves are not bulky. This is another issue I have with many hunting coats. Sleeves are thick and bulky and can catch the bow string when an arrow is released. I can tell you from experience that if the bowstring touches your coat sleeve it will be an in-accurate shot!

November first arrived and so did a major cold front. A crisp twenty-five degrees read the temperature guage with a north wind at twelve miles to fifteen miles  an hour. Wind chill made it worse enough that I observed deer with frost on their backs! In fact, everything was covered in frost. Hey what better day to test out the Non Typical Silencer Jacket? I still had a doe tag to fill so, I climbed up into another tree stand for a few hours.

Several hours later, I had witnessed a 140 inch buck chasing does around. A smaller buck walked right under my stand but no does ventured close enough for a bow shot. My coat did its job very well. My body stayed warm and dry. The severe wind didn’t cut through my coat. I have totally agree with the name “Silencer” as the jacket made ZERO noise even when rubbing on tree bark. The extra length covers your butt and prevent any draft when sitting or standing in the wind. Wrists were anchored by Drake’s noteworthy Velcro like strap closure which works well to keep warmth in and moisture and wind out.

Outside the jacket had a big handwarmer type pocket ( zippered) at the bottom edge of each side. At chest level there was a zippered pocket on the right breast and a Magnatouch (magnetic) pocket on the left breast. The main zipper was a nice heavy duty type that zipped all the way up to the top of the neck. It would be nice if the zipper would allow it to be zipped completely up but also be able to un-zip the lower portion. This is handy when wearing a tree stand harness.

tom 2014 archery buck

The Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket is constructed of a polyester exterior material which the camo pattern is integral. Hunters can choose between Realtree Xtra, and Mossy Oak Bottomland camo patterns. Internally the jacket is lined with a 400 gram fleece fabric that as I mentioned performs very well at providing warmth and wind protection. The elbows, inner arms, and faces of the pockets feature a nice chocolate color material to reinforce them. The collar zips all the way up to your neck which is nice for those windy days and it also prevents your bowstring from snagging.

Overall, I would have to say Drake has hit a home run with this jacket. Light weight warmth, silent material, and not restrictive in use; what more could a hunter ask for? The Non Typical Silencer Soft Shell Jacket is the perfect companion for bow hunters or rifle hunters. Get more information on this Non Typical jacket or any Drake item at

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Don’t Miss The Boat; Check Out These Innovative New Hunting Products for Fall 2014

By Tom Cannon

4 rivers ebads

Another fall hunting season rapidly approaches, bringing with it the many hopes of hunters. Whether it is a trophy class buck you chase, or the feathers of migrating waterfowl, here are several new products that will peak your interest.

First, since many waterfowlers have already begun the quest to the northern promise lands, here are a few items that might just help bag a limit.

fiocchi gold goose

Never am I without my trusty Fiocchi ammo whether it be their Gold line of premium shotgun shells such as the Golden Waterfowl, Golden Goose, or Golden Pheasant loads which are made with plated shot for harder hits and deeper penetration on game birds. New for this year, the Golden Pheasant loads including the GPX version (1485 fps) are available in a four box set that is packed in a heavy duty Plano waterproof box. That’s just the ticket to keep shells dry and organized on that out of state trip!

fiocchi plano box2

Likewise, if we are hunting big game, our rifles are stoked with nothing else than Fiocchi Extrema hunting loads, which feature clean burning powders and premium aftermarket bullets from Hornady or Sierra for one shot kills. This fall Fiocchi has new loads in .223, 22-250, 243, and a new caliber the 300 Blackout. Oh yeah, Fiocchi offers a Plano box loaded with .223 or .308 ammo for those high volume rifle shooters and varmint control specialists! Fiocchi never rests, but you can see their latest new products at

The name and logo of Drake Waterfowl is very distinctive, just like their gear. For 2014, Drake has re-invented the breathable wader. Check out the new and improved, EST 2.0 waders! A complete once over was done to improve the fit and comfort. Higher sides now allow the hunter (or angler) to wade into deeper water. Drake improved the knee area by adding their own Hydro-Flex knee pads to improve comfort when kneeling and Drake also added pleats to the knees to reduce binding when bending over or squatting down. A three layer waterproof and durable but breathable fabric in several camo patterns completes the exterior. Of course the EST waders still have all the pockets and buckle free straps that hunters expect from Drake.  These waders are available in standard and waist high (boat pants) versions as well. See more details at the website,

drake est 20 waders

Yet another unique item from Drake is their new Swamp Sole Backpack. This slick backpack features a molded plastic bottom to prevent the contents of the pack from getting wet if it was to be placed on a wet boat floor, duck blind or muddy field. Pockets and more pockets are the theme in the Swamp Sole. The exterior is covered with different sized compartments as well as ten shot shell loops. Let’s not forget a padded sunglasses case that is integral as well as a water bottle pouch. This is a well thought out, and handy item for the hunter. Although it was designed for duck and goose hunters it would work equally well for deer hunters also.

drake swamp sole bag

One item that really intrigues me is the field blind. I have several different models and all work fine but none really excel. Heavy Hauler Outdoor Gear has a new low profile blind, known as the FLP, or Fast, Light, Packable. This new blind weighs in at only nine pounds and folds up into a tight little package to make those treks into the corn or wheat fields easier. The maximum height is sixteen inches tall so it will conceal easy. Stubble straps cover the exterior to help make concealment complete. A mesh head cover allows the hunter to see yet stay concealed. The rear of the blind transforms into a bag to store the hunter’s extra gear. I hope to do an in-depth review of the FLP Blind at a later date, so stayed tuned, or inspect it for yourself at

heavyhauler flp blind2

Whether you hunt waterfowl, deer, predators, big game, or just like to watch birds and wildlife, nothing beats a good set of optics. Alpen Optics has been producing award winning “glass” for years. This fall, Alpen introduces their Ranier 25-75 x 86, spotting scope. Its must have item for anyone who needs high quality optics in order to view their chosen quarry at extreme distances.  The Ranier series is Alpen’s super premium line of optics and like all Alpen products it features a no fault lifetime warranty. This spotting scope incorporates a 45 degree eye piece for ease of viewing in most conditions. The internal optics have UBX high definition coatings to enhance low light images. Additionally the Ranier spotting scope utilizes “O” rings and nitrogen filled components and is guaranteed to be waterproof in any environment. If you haven’t taken a close look at the Alpen Optics line of binoculars, rifle scopes, spotting scopes and accessories then you are missing the boat. Alpen has won seven awards from Outdoor Life in their product tests in recent years, for their high quality optics at unbelieveable prices. Find your local dealer or just inspect the Ranier, Apex, or Shasta models of Alpen Optics at www.AlpenOptics.comalpen ranier spot scope

One of the best kept secrets in waterfowling is the use of layout boats. Four Rivers Layout Boats were one of the originators of “stealth duck hunting” boats and they produce some of the finest hand crafted low profile boats in the country. The latest creation from Four Rivers is the SOBADS boat. This eleven foot model is built to handle nearly anything a hunter can dish out. Approved for a seven horse power motor, it is best served with a “mud motor” which will push this SOBADS boat through thick and thin waters, over stump fields, across sand bars and dikes and into those hard to reach duck holes. The SOBADS boat will float in two inches of water while carrying nearly five hundred pounds! Did I mention all Four Rivers Layout Boats are hand built here in the U. S.? These incredibly safe and stable boats will get you to and from your destination with ease and once there they disappear with little effort. In fact I have had ducks light within feet of my Four Rivers Refuge Runner boat on numerous occasions! View the incredible videos to see firsthand what the SOBADS boat is capable of. 4 rivers sobads

Big game hunters have been installing trail cameras for years but in recent years things have really evolved. Browning, is best known for their innovative firearms, but recently they entered the trail camera industry in a big way, grabbing top honors in several field tests. Two of their latest trail cameras, highlight the overall quality of their lineup. The Strike Force model is a great value for hunters on a limited budget or who need several trail cams for different locations.  Don’t judge it by its size, (the smallest camera in the industry) because the Strike Force packs a lot of punch! Browning included a 10 Megapixel display camera system along with HD quality video capacity and long battery life. In fact the Strike Force was able to take up to ten thousand photos with one set of batteries (6 AA). It also had great reviews for its ease of use from  Browning_spec_ops_2014-281x351

Browning also makes a big brother, the Spec Ops trail camera. This higher end model generated a nearly perfect review from, and has been selling well among individuals requiring a surveillance camera for security purposes as well as hunters! One of the key components for the rave reviews is the fact that the Browning Spec Ops trail cam has a “no glow infrared”, thus it can take photos at night undetected. This feature never spooks game or “crooks” who may be either poaching or up to devious behavior. It also has 10 megapixels, and great battery life from the 8 AA batteries that fit into the easy slide out tray. What I thought was really cool was the integral two inch color screen inside that allows the owner to view BOTH PHOTOS and VIDEO right there without removing the camera from the tree! This trail cam is also able to take up to ten thousand photos from a set of batteries. Additionally the exterior of the Spec Ops is nearly perfect, as it blends right into most tree bark, thus remaining undetectable by passing humans. In reviews it ranked in the ninety-five percentile of all trail cams for trigger speed and recovery time. See the entire line at

drake non typical silencer jacket

Although Drake is bursting on the scene with its line of big game clothing, by no means are they new to producing hunting clothing for use in extreme conditions. In fact what Drake has done for waterfowl hunters, it hopes to do for deer hunters; keep them warm and dry in tough conditions! Take for instance, the new Non-Typical series of clothing specifically made for big game hunting. Need quiet exterior fabrics? Drake has that with their Silencer jackets and pants. Weatherproof and warm gear for treestands or high altitude treks? Try on the new Drake Sherpa Fleece pants, bibs and jackets. They even have headwear including, beanies, caps, and neck gaiters all in either Mossy Oak Bottomland or Realtree Xtra camo patterns. Face it, we all know that Drake keeps duck hunters warm and dry so why not deer, moose and elk hunters as well? I will have an in-depth field test of some of the new Non-Typical gear in coming weeks so stay tuned or visit, for more details and images.

fiocchi poppers

Let’s not forget our canine hunting partners. While scanning the latest catalogs, my pal Vito, continually bumps my arm reminding me it’s time to train for the upcoming season. Any pro athlete wants their training to be as realistic as possible, therefore let us simulate a hunting scenario when training our dogs. We try to keep a shotgun handy that is loaded with Fiocchi “poppers” or blanks to reinforce the gunshot and falling game methodology. As with all Fiocchi USA products, the poppers and blanks are clean so they won’t fowl your shotgun. Likewise, I cast out a Retrieve-Rite bumper made by Drake Waterfowl Systems. It can be throw long distances yet is durable and lifelike.

drake retrieve rite dummy

Besides stocking up on gear, early season is the last chance to earn points on the home front. Ensure the chores are all done and all the summer projects are completed! Warn your boss of impending cold fronts and buy plenty of batteries for the camera as this fall is setting up perfectly for a memorable hunting season!

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CALL NOTES: Molt Gear EX-Reflex Goose Call

Reflex-call colors

By Tom Cannon

No stranger to the waterfowl industry, Scott Threinen, has established himself among those elite, who have won multiple calling titles. In Scott’s case, three World Live Goose Championships, dozens of other contest honors, and trophies.

Upon reaching the pinnacle of goose calling, Threinen, formed Molt Gear, and produced what can arguably be called the most successful instructional goose calling DVD on the market. That initial foray was in 2006, with the Bad Grammar CD, then two years later followed suit with the DVD by the same name. In years since, he has produced several other duck and goose DVD’s and followed that endeavor up with his first call; the EX3, in 2012.

Now in 2014, Molt Gear has recently introduced its premier goose call; The EX Reflex. Scott and his staff have invested about eighteen months of work in the shop and of course in the field. Multiple changes have taken place since the first prototype left the CNC machine. Scott began his creation from the outside; creating the look he wanted then worked inside as he progressed. Multiple changes in angles, lengths,and diameters; down to thousandths of an inch, were intregral in the developmental process of the new call.

The EX Reflex Call features a unique internal bore design. Scott explained it as a “compression chamber” which tightly focuses the air; essentially generating back pressure effortlessly. Since the bore is not straight, the call breaks easily and has fast response.

reflex closeup


Molt Gear installs their own green, worn in, “Phantom” guts in the EX Reflex call, for maximum performance. As described by Threinen, the Phantom guts are created from a set of guts that he personally blew (wore in) for two and a half years. He determined that was the optimum time it takes to create the proper vibration, range, and tone of a mature Canada goose. The “wore in” guts create more reed travel than a new set of guts allowing more vocalization and a better “goosey” sound. Reeds are hand shaved and feature an angled front edge for more pop. Obviously the time it takes to break in the guts, create a master set or mold and reproduce them is no easy process yet it is essential to the performance of Scott’s best goose call to date; the EX Reflex.

Currently the EX Reflex is available only in acrylic. Like all of Molt Gear’s calls, the EX Reflex are hand produced once they leave the CNC machine. They are polished by hand to prevent changing the molecular structure of the acrylic material, then lazer engraved, and hand painted. The insert with the wore in, hand shaved guts is installed and then the call is hand tuned. Scott mentioned that he and his staff tune a hundred or so of any new call before they determine how each individual call needs to be tuned to produce the best sounding call for the customer.

Compared to its predecessor, the EX3; the EX Reflex is ½ inch shorter in length. Scott states the Reflex is faster with an increased range and tone. Additionally it is a bit sharper or higher pitched than his previous calls.

reflex hunt pic

For more information on the EX Reflex call as well as all the other calls go to



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Banding Geese for Conservation

by Tom Cannongoose flock

Recently I was able to participate in a unique conservation opportunity with employees of Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. We were going to embark on a day of banding Canada Geese. Nearly all waterfowl hunters and birders know that state and federal agencies band birds annually, in an effort to study their flight patterns and life cycles. Although I have been fortunate enough to harvest several bands in my hunting career, I had never had the chance to actually put a band on a bird!

Thus when I was given the opportunity to join biologist Tom Bidrowski and his crew, I jumped on it. Tom is the Migratory Game Bird Program Manager for the state of Kansas.  The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) crew was doing a study on resident Canada geese throughout the state. They were banding in several locations in recent days and we were to meet at Perry Lake in eastern Kansas.  Since I had a great opportunity to pass on a bit of wildlife conservation, I coaxed my daughter Kylee into coming along. kylee goose backgrd

Upon arrival, Kylee and I jumped in with biologist Rich Schultheis, who was assisting Bidrowski in the study. As he drove, Rich explained that the KDWP was in the middle of a five year program on resident geese. Each year their goal was to band two thousand local or resident geese, so they could track and study any migration patterns and learn more about the population in Kansas. Although we would be working with the KDWP biologists, they were in fact also coordinating their efforts with other states in the Central Flyway (North & South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado) to gain a better understanding of managing geese in the region.  featherless goose wing

For a short period of time, typically just two to three weeks in end of June or first part of July, geese are flightless while they molt their wing feathers. It is during this cycle that biologists are able to collect them, place metal bands on their legs, and determine the sex and age of the goose. banding a goose

These metal bands are issued by the U.S. Geological Service, which receives, tracks  and coordinates all the information on bands. The USGS provides the bands so that there is no overlap of numbers or confusion in the efforts to track and learn where each bird was banded or found. Additionally there are programs for nearly all birds from hummingbirds to eagles. released goose

Since it is information that needed, all geese are captured and released unharmed and usually in the same area where they were found. On this day, a pair of KDWP biologists would paddle out on kayaks and begin to drive the geese toward shore. Other biologists and volunteers would lie in wait on the shoreline and form a human fence, effectively herding the geese into a chosen location. At that point the crew would quickly assemble portable fence panels to create a corral in which to house the birds. goose corral

Once the birds were captured, the true work began. A few members hoped in with the geese and sorted out any that were previously banded. Those birds were plucked, (pun intended) from the enclosure and the band information recorded for later use. Once the goose was identified it was released and they quickly sought out the security of the water. Once all the previous bands were done, we then turned our attention to “new” birds. The biologists hoped to catch both adult and juvenile geese. The newly hatched geese offered perfect information since it is easily proven they were born there at the capture site. Researchers have no way of knowing where adult geese came from; whether they are true residents of if they migrated into the area and stayed. 009

The “new” geese were collected individually, taken to a staff member who placed a band on its leg, then that same goose was taken to a biologist who determined sex and if it was an adult or juvenile bird. That information was communicated to a staff member who was seated next to him and the info was officially recorded for the study. sexing goose

As you can imagine, the geese were quite anxious and some were down right unruly! It becomes a somewhat messy affair after handling dozens of geese during the course of a hot day!  No harm was done to any and everyone was released unharmed. In the largest of several groups captured, we had approximately two hundred and fifty geese.  Keep in mind the KDWP staff was traveling throughout the state and conducting these programs at numerous lakes for an effective study.kylee banding goose

Toward the end of the day, the staff allowed us volunteers to learn all of the process. Each person was invited to actually place a band on a goose or two while Tom and Rich educated us on how to properly determine the sex of the goose. It was great opportunity for Kylee and I, and one of those rare days that we as hunters can actually put our conservation skills to use.

For more information on bird banding and the research it provides go to Otherwise contact your local state fish and game department where you might be able to volunteer in a project like this. Thanks to Tom Bidrowski, Rich Schultheis and all of the KDWP crew and other volunteers who helped out. It was truly a great experience.


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CATFISH: The Other White Meat !

good size flathead & channelby Tom Cannon

When I think of summertime, I immediately think of certain things. Hot weather, ice tea, and catfish. What other fish fits the bill in the summer heat better than old “whisker lips”? To make the situation even better, most states have a very liberal daily creel limit on Catfish, allowing anglers to quickly and easily fill their freezer with some tasty fillets!

Let’s not get in a big debate about whether catching ‘Cats on rod and reel is the true feat compared to set lines. I say pick your passion and get after them! Recently I was able to get a free weekend and after consulting, John Trager, a local Catfishing guru, I immediately set a plan into action.

John, better known as Captain Catfish, is a legend in Kansas City fishing circles. In fact he helped popularize the fish in our urban areas, i.e. the Missouri and Kansas Rivers that flow through our city.

I needed just a bit of advice, and John’s opinion on the weekend moon phase was right on track. He mentioned that there would be a “dark” moon over the period I was considering and that often led to successful trips. Since I had an opportunity to sneak away from family issues, I loaded the boat and went out alone for some quiet time. There are hundreds of great Catfishing oppurtunities very close to most anglers. Any size impoundment, stream, river, or pond is bound to have an ample supply of ‘Cats. In fact I had this particular place to myself!

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention some of the prep work. First and foremost in a successful trip is bait. I learned from John that one of the keys to catching numbers and size of fish is good natural bait. Thus prior to heading out, I assembled my assitiant bait mate, and headed to my little perch hole. We have found that Berkley PowerBait Nibbles are perfect for catching sunfish. Nearly every real bait we have tried is stolen more times than naught, yet the PowerBait stays on the hook very well and catches tons of fish!kylee-catchingperch

We simply use any ultra light rod setup, although an extenedable Crappie pole is optimum as it allows the angler to dip the bait into holes in moss and under trees. Be sure to check your local regulations on live bait and what is legal to use. I try to catch fifty or so sunfish and immediately put them into an aerated cooler. Of course Catfish can be caught on prepared baits, cut baits (Asian Carp are perfect) natural “stink” or attractant baits and many other creations. If I have to pick another bait besides sunfish, my second choice would be liver. While thousands of folks use chicken livers, I prefer beef liver. Beef has a tougher texture and stays on the hook better than chicken livers. Additionally I pre cut my beef livers into nuggets to save time on the water.

This trip I was going to utilize set lines, but prior to hitting the water I contacted my local game warden. I needed to clarify daily possession limit regulations. He explained that if I stayed on the water overnight that even though I would be fishing two days, in Missouri I could not legally have more than one day’s limit on my boat or in my truck. Thus if I wanted to catch a “possession limit” which is normally a two day total, I would have to go home on the first day and return with an empty creel. Once again its critical to check your local rules.

Therefore, once I got to the river I immediately began to locate my favorite spots. With knowledge I had picked up from John and other anglers, I expanded on my best spots, choosing two more places to fish. One of my new picks was a deep scour hole where the normal six foot deep channel dropped to twenty foot! It was here I placed my longest Trotline of six or seven hooks. I then eased downstream and set out a few more Trotlines and limb lines, but ensuring I never went over the maximum number of hooks allowed per person.trotline full cats

I count my rigs and place them in a bucket before heading out, so I know exactly how many rigs I have out and don’t unknowingly go over my limit. One trick I have found that makes labeling your lines easy is this… I take the address labels that come in the mail by the hundreds. I affix them to clear shipping tape so both sides are covered in tape. Then when I set a line I simply tape this semi-weatherproof name tag to my line and I am legal. Remember that it is illegal and unethical to place or leave lines unattended without name tags. Also when your trip is done you are required to completely remove all your gear!

I had high hopes for this trip. After an hour or so I was completed rigged up. All the lines were wet and ready for fish. I anxiously gulped down a sandwich and drink as the sun began to set. Still I was alone yet surprisingly close to home and thousands of people!

My first stop, netted a three pound Channel Cat, and the fun never ended! Nearly every stop had a fish on the line. In fact, my favorite spot, a little channel swing with stumps on it had a trio of Cats in a row. Its always fun to see the line jumping and not know what lays in wait under the surface!

The first evening, I quickly had my limit of Channel Catfish with one bonus Flathead! Since I had my limit and was growing weary of the bugs, I loaded my boat and headed home. Once there I emptied my livewell into a large trough of cold water and laid down for a few hours rest. At sunrise, I awoke, anxious to once more be back on the water!cooler of catfish

Somehow, my hard work was paying off. I was fortunate to be on the water witnessing God’s creation and harvesting plenty of Catfish. Amazingly nearly every stop held fish! I quickly approached my limit and began to unhook and release small fish so I could continue to purse larger fish and enjoy the sunrise. At one of my new stops, I reached down and in the process of pulling up the main line, the line pulled back. Typically this is the trait of a heavy fish, so I listened to my experience and pulled on a heavy glove. Big fish can jerk the main line so hard that it cuts the skin on your hand like a knife. Having endured this previously, I was trying to learn from my mistakes! Although this fish was a good one, approximately a ten pound Channel, he wasn’t a monster but did put up a fight.

As I continued my journey from line to line, I was blessed with numerous three to five pound fish and for once no turtles or gar to contend with ! In short order I had my ten Channels but unfortunately no bonus Flatheads or Blue Cats. Thus at nine oclock I pulled all my lines and loaded the boat onto the trailer.

Of course on the ride home I had a couple phone calls to make. Upon arrival at home, the work was about to begin! I had two days limits to contend to and the sun was beginning to get high and hot! Still, I had the pleasure of a glorious night and day trip to reflect on as I slid the knife from once Catfish to the next. In short order I had a  couple dozen bags in the freezer and the knowledge that one heck of a fish fry was in order.catfish meat

The firm, white flesh of a Catfish may not be the most reverved fish in the water but never underestimate it. Nothing tops off a summer afternoon like some of the “other white meat” (Catfish) fired to golden perfection alongside some coleslaw, homegrown tomatoes and a cold beer. Now that’s what summer is all about!

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